FDSH boys clipped by East

Tom Daniel had this sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach after watching his Fort Dodge boys fall to Sioux City East, 58-56, Monday night.

After the Dodgers rallied back from as many as 19 points down in the first half, they were unable to convert on the final possession of the game.

Krunal Thakor’s last-second runner rimmed off the basket, allowing the Black Raiders to escape the FDSH gym with their eighth straight victory.

Fort Dodge (9-7 overall) was led by JC Hatcher’s game-high 19 points, as the senior scored 10 during a strong second half run. Blake Wilder added 15 points and eight rebounds, while Zach Martinson had 14 and 14.

“As a coach, I’m going to second-guess that last play for a while,” Daniel said. “We got a good look, but when it doesn’t go, you always question whether or not you picked the right play.

“Credit our guys, because they never gave in. We were down 19 in the first half, and even as many as five with just 20 seconds to go; but we continued to fight.”

Sioux City East (14-3) remained perfect on the year since senior Ikenna Okwarabizie was declared eligible. The 6-foot-10 transfer had to sit out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule after moving into the district.

Despite being six inches taller than the biggest Dodger play, Okwarabizie struggled with foul trouble all night. He scored just three points and grabbed five boards.

Okwarabizie, who is fielding offers from schools such as Southern Illinois, Southern Miss and Illinois State, did block two shots in limited minutes.

“With him in there, we knew we would have to find different ways to score,” Daniel said. “I thought our kids did a good job of taking advantage of the parts of the game where he was on the bench. We just had to spend so much energy battling back that we didn’t have enough left to pull this one out.

“We’ll learn from it. Our kids will learn. Our coaches will learn. These experiences will help us come the postseason.”

Fort Dodge took its first lead of the game at the 1:20 mark of the third quarter when Thakor hit a three-pointer, putting the Dodgers up 51-50. That culminated a 21-7 run that stretched from the end of the second to the third, but Sioux City East quickly reclaimed the advantage.

The Black Raiders relied on Andre Harris early on, as the junior came off the bench to score 16 points – 14 of which came in the opening half, including 11 in the second quarter alone.

After a wild third, neither team had much left to offer in the final eight minutes, combining for just 11 points in the fourth. While Fort Dodge missed three free throws in the game, all of which came in the fourth, Sioux City East failed to hit on 16 shots from the line.

“We just need to be stronger down the stretch,” Daniel said. “If we want to win games like this, we have to finish.”

The Dodgers return to action tonight, hosting No. 7 (Class 4A) Southeast Polk.